Updated: Dec 13, 2019
Shopping in Romania can be super fun. But step number one is to understand the local currency. I was often asked by foreigners what our currency was. Is it "Leu or Ron?" and what is the difference between the two of them. That is the classical confusion followed by the dilemma of how come we are in the EU but we don't have Euros yet.
We have plastic money, and no, I am not talking about credit cards. :)
Could you guess which of the bills from the picture above are made out of paper and which of plastic? If you pay attention to the details you will notice the transparent details on the bills to the left. Those are the plastic bills we are using nowadays. On the right we have the grandfather of the modern bill, with four extra zero's due to the inflation from the 90's. Today's Romanian money is worth around 0.22 euro, meaning that 5 Lei is a bit more than 1 euro.
But just to get the waterproof superpower of our money, check out the video below of a "bullied" 10 Lei bill:
I wish they would put my face on the bill someday so I can be indestructible too. Plastic is fantastic they say, and polymer sounds even cooler. Romania was the first country in Europe to introduce this type of money. The switch happened back in 1999, but there are several other countries who joined this fun initiative, among them being Canada, Australia or UK which is upgrading their money as we speak. If you want to research the history of this initiative check THIS out.
It should be clear by now that Leu is the name of our currency, it means lion in Romanian, and it's trying to impress with the strength of its value. The value had its ups and downs and this is how we ended up with the Ron, which is only a new name we came up with in order to describe the new money that we introduced in 2005, after cutting down 4 zeros. People still think in old money quite often and this is why many prices are expressed in Ron in a lot of shops around Romania. Just to be clear: Ron and Leu are exactly the same thing. Romanian New Leu or RON became the symbol of our currency and Leu is its name, just like the distinction between the British Pound and GBP.
Lei is the plural of Leu, this is what you will find written on the bill. Ta-da!
On a funny note, money can be music to the ears of many, but only plastic money would actually produce music with the help of a vinyl, check this out:
Ka-ching! 1 Leu will buy you a coffee from a public machine or a simple pretzel, but if you need less then one, then you are in need of some "bani" aka the local coins. Coins sound more like money, huh? Historically this is the first version of money and amazingly it's still around with all of the crypto-currencies threatening the physical existence of money.
If you have a passion for old money and want to discover the entire history of the Romanian bills, you will find it on the here. But if you only care about spending the latest version of them, here you have a sample of the main bills and coins:
This is what we've got, so spend it wisely on fun stuff!